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New Year for yourself and nature

It’s that time of year for reflection and renewal, but, perhaps more importantly, setting our goals for the next year. Ask yourself: Are you patting yourself on the back or raking yourself over the coals, and what do you want to accomplish this next year?

For many of us, we spent too much time in front of our computers or TVs. I’ve heard people say “sitting is the new smoking” in terms of how bad it is for your health.

Moving around, especially outdoors, is good for your physical health. I encourage everyone to go and be outdoors. Getting outside in nature will also do you a world of good mentally.

Florence Williams, author of “The Nature Fix,” says that studies show that as few as 15 minutes spent in nature can slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure and lower the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your brain. Your senses are heightened, and you feel more connected with the world.

When you feel more connected to the world, you care more about what will happen to the life in it. We’re in the middle of a biodiversity crisis where the rate of species’ extinction is 100 to 1,000 times faster than expected because of all the pressures we humans are putting on this planet.

We also need those leaders around us, specifically our legislators and state leaders to step into the outdoors with us all. While we made a great step forward in September 2022 when the Dept. of Natural Resources announced grants of nearly $23 million to eight land trusts and three local parks departments, as well as the Indiana DNR and Indiana State Museum. These entities helped secured 3,718 acres of Indiana’s most pristine landscape.

We still have much to do.

Our 2023 proposal includes:

•An additional appropriation of $25 million over the biennium to the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust.

•Incorporation of the joint proposal by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Indiana Invasives Initiative to increase funding to the Clean Water Indiana Fund and the effort to eradicate invasive species from our natural places.

•A means to implement policy decisions on a watershed basis rather than the arbitrary county lines that do not respect nature’s systemic construction.

Now more than ever, we need to stop, reflect and renew our appreciation for and attention to nature.

The options for including nature in your life are endless. The choices we make on a daily basis affect you, me, animals, trees, water and everything around us.

Let’s work together in 2023 to change nature starting with a change in yourself.

Editor’s note: Larry Clemens is the Indiana state director for The Nature Conservancy, a global nonprofit with nearly 5,000 employees in 79 countries whose mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.